View Full Version : disappointing sound quality......
I am not currently very pleased with the sound quality I am getting, even given that my system is very much at the budget end. I am new to all this, not familiar with all the 'jargon' and find the sound hard to describe , so please bear with me!!!
I recently bought a squeezebox 3. Initially I connected it to the only remaining working components of my ancient trio midi system, the amp and the speakers. Sound seemed OK but rather muffled and flat. Having found that I could get all the technology working, I have proceeded to 'upgrade' my system. First I bought a pair of wharfedale 9.1 speakers, based on excellent reviews and limited budget. I used QED silver anniversary speaker cables. Sound was generally better, but the treble was rather harsh, and 's' sounds slightly hissing. I then bought a rotel RA 04 amp, again based on very good reviews and comments on this and other forums, but also having been able to listen to it at a friend's house (with CD player) and liking it.
If anything, things are now worse! Bass and the lower end of treble sound superb, but higher notes, particularly strings, sound very harsh,almost vibrating, and female voices when singing 's' go 'ssssssss'
As I like mellow classics, jazz and female vocals this is a real problem, I soon find the sound irritating and turn it off.
I am playing wma lossless files, the speakers are currently on a raised solid stone fireplace surround with lumps of bluetack underneath.I am using a mid priced chord interconnect.
I am at a loss to decide which component is to blame.Or whether I need to change any settings on the squeezebox.Or whether I've made some fundamental mistake setting it all up.
I was hoping to keep the budget down, but am happy to spend on speaker stands, power supply, or even an upgrade in speakers - just don't know what to do that is likely to make the most difference, and would be very grateful for any tips.
Not that I can necessarily help a great deal, but other more knowledgeable people might find this information useful:
- Ripping sources and methodology (CD/SACD/DVD-A -> EAC/WMA -> WMA lossless?)
- Output type from SB3 (optical/analog)
- Compare to quality of CD playback using the EXACT SAME connectors if possible (using original CD)
- Re-burn the WMA tracks to a CD and try playing them back in your CD player in the above configuration. If it sounds different than the original CD, there's your problem.
Your 'sssssss' observation sounds like a lowpass filter to me. I can't imagine where this would be coming from though, unless these lossless WMA files began their lives as MP3s.
I am using the rca connectors.
Unfortunately I don't have a cd player (the squeezebox was supposed to be instead of this!)so can't do the tests you suggest, though can see they would help identify the problem.
the wma files were ripped directly from CD to PC using lossless format in windows media player
How does it sound when you play the files through Windows Media Player? If they sound bad there also then there must be something wrong with them. If they sound fine, there may still be something wrong with them that is not revealed on the computer.
What version of SlimServer and firmware are you using? How are you controlling analog volume?
I would say that on the pc ( decent-ish altec lansing pc speakers) the bass and lower treble are much less full and defined, and altogether less pleasing, but the treble is less harsh, and the slightly hissy 's' in spoken word and song is less pronounced, though when I listen hard it's still there a bit.
I am using 6.5.2 and have the squeezebox turned up to max volume, controlling the volume via the amp.
First, I'd try to find another input source so that you have something to which you can compare the Squeezebox. Borrow a CD player, or even a DVD player that plays CDs.
Does WMP process the sound of CDs at all when it rips/encodes? You might try a different file format. Try ripping one or two of the same albums using EAC and encode using Flac. It'll be a little bit of work getting EAC set up, but may be worth it.
It's quite possible that the Rotel isn't a good match for the Warfdale speakers. I've heard a lot of amp/speaker combos that were unlistenably bright. I think you'll only know for sure which is the culprit - the input source or the amp - if you can find another source.
I have a Patricia Barber album I use as a sibilance reference disc. She seems to overpronounce her s's for effect, but it's very well recorded and if there's sibilance, it's the system. My point is don't test for this with jazz recorded in the 60's, because your system may just be more revealing than you're used to.
Some no-cost things to try might be swapping the phase for one of your speakers in case they're out (put it back if the central image isn't as strong when swapped), toeing in your speakers so you're not listening directly on axis, and even the Inguz EQ plugin which gives simple bass/mid/treble, 9 band EQ, even absolute phase correction and balance now, I believe.
I am bowled over by the expertise and helpfulness here on this forum, thanks so much to everyone !
Sorry, but I need to ask some more questions:
How do I 'swap the phase for one of my speakers?'
Can anyone explain what the Inguz EQ plugin is and what it does?
I would have to agree with Jim, without being able to use another source (CD) it would be hard to pin point the problem. Right now it would be more costly trying the hit and miss method. This one thing I didn't hear above, play CD through the computer CD drive and see how it sounds, then get a patch cord for you sound card Y connector to your amp and do the same and see how it sounds. Atleast you will be able to narrow it down to the amp system or the ripping method/results. IMHO
The "left and right" halfs of each speaker cable are usually distinguished from eachother in some way- typically the insulation is colored differently or there may be a white stipe that runs the length of one side of the cable. Ideally you would use these markings to make sure that the same half of the cable that is connected to a given jack on the amp is connected to the corresponding jack on the speaker; if you do this for each speaker then they should be in phase. If you want to switch the phase, just invert the connections at the back of one of the speakers.
How do I 'swap the phase for one of my speakers?'
Can anyone explain what the Inguz EQ plugin is and what it does?
Speaker phase was probably a long shot, i'm kind of sorry I mentioned it, but maybe it's worth checking. If you want to switch phase in one of the speakers you wire red on one speaker to black on amp, with the other speaker wired normally. I doubt they are out of phase if they're wired up properly but you never know.
The EQ is probably one of the harder plugins to try out:
1. Check that you're using microsoft windows os. If so continue.
2. Inguz recommends 2gHz processor but 1.3 might work. You can only try.
3. Install .NET 2.0 http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=0856EACB-4362-4B0D-8EDD-AAB15C5E04F5&displaylang=en
4. Download the Filter Processor and unzip into slimserver http://www.inguzaudio.com/DSP/
5. DL+unzip the EQ plugin into slimserver http://www.inguzaudio.com/EQ/
I strongly agree that your best course of action would be to play the CD over the same system. The other suggestions are good ones, but not until you establish that the problem is your system in your listening room. If you get the same sibilance with the CD player, you have ruled out problems with the ripped files, the Squeezebox, and its cables.
You could also try plugging the SB into a different input on your receiver. Maybe there is a problem with one of the inputs that is not on another.
Oh, and for future reference, please do not cross-post (you posted this in both the "Beginners" and the "Audiophiles" forums).
Long shot #2: you haven't by any chance connected the SB3 to the RA04's "Phono" input? Should be using one of the Line Level inputs - usually labeled "CD" or "Aux".
I actually prefer to run my squeezebox at 91 on the volume level, any higher makes my volume knob too touchy. I too am new to the SB and it sounds great! I am running mine through an outboard D/A but the onboard still sound good.
I do think its most likely a source issue, because you have changed equipment (except for the SB) and are still having issues. I whole heartedly agree you need to try another source, sounds like there is something wrong with the SB or the files you are feeding it.
The equipment you have should sound good, and absolutely not have sibalance.
First, play with aiming your speakers. Yes, I know, you are supposed to
aim towards your primary listening seat. But try aiming the speakers
"wide". Then try aiming the left towards your right ear and the right
towards your left ear. Then, move the speakers off of the hearth. Go
ahead and use milk crates or cinderblocks or stacks of books or dining
room chairs for speaker stands. Every room is different and every set
of speakers you try will sound different.
Find a friend with a nice sounding stereo. Borrow their speakers if you
can. Borrow their ears... And maybe, just maybe, you need to have your
ears checked. I mean no insult.
While the electronics matter, you don't *hear* the electronics, you
*hear* the speakers. Reviews are only a guide. Speakers that sound
great at the store will sound different at home. I mean, *I* live in a
house, not an electronics shop.
For speaker wires, 16 gauge lamp cord is plenty for most applications.
(copper is copper, after all.)
caroline nixon said the following on 1/9/2007 1:37 PM:
> I am not currently very pleased with the sound quality I am getting,
> even given that my system is very much at the budget end. I am new to
> all this, not familiar with all the 'jargon' and find the sound hard to
> describe , so please bear with me!!!
> I recently bought a squeezebox 3. Initially I connected it to the only
> remaining working components of my ancient trio midi system, the amp
> and the speakers. Sound seemed OK but rather muffled and flat. Having
> found that I could get all the technology working, I have proceeded to
> 'upgrade' my system. First I bought a pair of wharfedale 9.1 speakers,
> based on excellent reviews and limited budget. I used QED silver
> anniversary speaker cables. Sound was generally better, but the treble
> was rather harsh, and 's' sounds slightly hissing. I then bought a
> rotel RA 04 amp, again based on very good reviews and comments on this
> and other forums, but also having been able to listen to it at a
> friend's house (with CD player) and liking it.
> If anything, things are now worse! Bass and the lower end of treble
> sound superb, but higher notes, particularly strings, sound very
> harsh,almost vibrating, and female voices when singing 's' go
> As I like mellow classics, jazz and female vocals this is a real
> problem, I soon find the sound irritating and turn it off.
> I am playing wma lossless files, the speakers are currently on a raised
> solid stone fireplace surround with lumps of bluetack underneath.I am
> using a mid priced chord interconnect.
> I am at a loss to decide which component is to blame.Or whether I need
> to change any settings on the squeezebox.Or whether I've made some
> fundamental mistake setting it all up.
> I was hoping to keep the budget down, but am happy to spend on speaker
> stands, power supply, or even an upgrade in speakers - just don't know
> what to do that is likely to make the most difference, and would be
> very grateful for any tips.
Hi, Can you get your PC close to the stereo?
If so connect the PC directly to the stereo. The green socket that normally goes to the altec lansing speakers.
You could also try using the altec lansing with the squeezebox as another comparison.
My PC produces surprisingly good sound on my system. Make sure when doing a comparison that the data is the same IE PC direct from the disc and squeezebox as uncompressed.
i have had problems with the quality of WMA files in the past. I don't know why but the problem sounded like the music was playing back through a poor record player.
Best of luck,
> While the electronics matter, you don't *hear* the electronics, you
> *hear* the speakers.
Er, then why do different amps/CD players/DACs/tuners/etc. sound different?
Of course you hear the electronics.
You seem to have had a wide range of suggestions in this thread, and the
on on the audiophile forum; some useful, some less so. :)
I have two suggestions, one of them new:
1. Try your system with another source, i.e. CD player -
beg/borrow/steal one from a friend. If you still have the same problem
then it's not the Squeezebox.
2. Check that slimserver is not transcoding to mp3 format to send to
your Squeezebox. This may happen if you have bitrate limiting enabled -
I think this is the default for a wirelessly connected squeezebox. To
check, go into Player Settings, Audio and look for Bitrate Limiting.
This should be set to "No limit".
Hope you get this sorted soon,
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